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How to prepare for/handle less than great news:
Feeling stunned, in shock, in denial, or angry is absolutely normal. Don’t do anything at first except feel or not feel–let this initial wallop subside before making any crucial decisions. Sometimes the best response is no response at the early stages.
Get educated. So, you now you know. Hit the books, hit the net, talk to people, weigh all the information and get to know this disease, its symptoms, the medications and therapies used to help this disease, if there is any research/clinical trials/studies, what operations/procedures there are, what support groups there are, and begin to form a short range and long range plan.
Take responsibility. You may, in the course of several years have many doctors, therapists, home health aides, nurses…and the only constant is you and your family–so you be the captain of your ship. Keep your information together; chronicle your doctors, meds, and care–because five years from now, you may be the only constant left in this picture.
If you know you may be getting difficult news on a particular day–bring support–you need someone who can support you–not necessarily your spouse or someone who’s going to fall apart–bring someone who will listen, take notes, be able to let you vent, and even drive you home.
Get a second opinion. And don’t tell them about the first opinion.
Breathe! For now, for today, you are alive. Live while you’re on this earth. Don’t give up too soon. Even if your diagnosis is life limiting, do all you can to care for yourself, and be present for your loved ones.
Decide who you will tell and when. This is up to you, but realize that you will have to face this. As scary as it is, it’s better to stay in control and keep it on your terms. Don’t get caught up with other’s emotions. Bad news affects people differently, and one thing we all do is internalize it–what we would do if we got this news. Let others go through their own journey, but stay on yours. You’ve got enough to deal with, so love them, but stay with “you.”
Find a health advocate. You need one person who will create that one continuous line for you. You may be dealing with pain, confusion, drug therapies, and surgeries. You won’t be able to write down specialist’s names to follow up with, or remember what time you took your last dose–so let someone be there for you. I know how scary it is to not have control, but acknowledge that you need help. Be appreciative–and ask them to be your health advocate. Tell them what you need–be clear and choose someone who can be objective and committed.
In the beginning, it’s going to be rough. Some moments, you’ll be in full out panic. Other moments, you’ll be comatose–and these moments will overwhelm you. But know that these initial days of despair will subside. The sooner you can get the support and plan of action you need, the better you’ll feel.
In the end it is all about how you respond to it and react to it that will affect all of those that you are connected to but always know you have your family and your friends to help y0u in the end.